A while back, we had a big invasion of caterpillars; covering bushes, weaving through the grass, tumbling across the road in the wind, they were everywhere. As I walked through the yard trying not to step on any, I happened to look down. There, among the tan colored waves of fuzz was a woolly bear caterpillar. A different color and larger than the others, it was black with a reddish brown band in the center. Being something different and out of the ordinary around here, and knowing the kids hadn’t seen one before, I got them to come take a look. Brooke collects and pins insects and Miley loves butterflies so they always like finding new insects/caterpillars and researching them. They picked it up, headed in and the research began…
Brooke was curious to find out if it would turn into a moth or butterfly, and wondered if it would turn into something she already had pinned. Miley… well, she was just really hoping it would be one that would turn into a really big, beautiful, black and gold butterfly. As they searched on the internet, they found out it would turn into an Isabella Tiger Moth. Disappointed, Miley thought the moth was wasn’t very pretty compared to the big butterfly she was hoping it would be.
As they did more research, they found that there is a legend that the size of the brown band on the Woolly Bear can actually predict how harsh the winter will be. The bigger the brown band means a milder the winter; the smaller the band means a harsher winter. A Woolly Bear has thirteen segments, if one third or 5.3 to 5.6 of them are brown, it’s believed the winter will be a mild one. Anything less than indicates the winter will be a hard one.
Even though it’s been found that the woolly bear can predict the weather with up to 70% accuracy, scientists have discounted it as being nothing more than folklore. They’ve found the number of brown bands is related to the age of the caterpillar, although weather does play a part in it. As the caterpillar grows, it molts. Each time it does a new brown band will form, so the more brown a woolly bear has, the older it is. If we have an early spring, the moths will come out sooner and lay eggs earlier in the season. This will allow for a longer amount of time for them to grow, which means they will have more brown bands from molting more often. So in reality, the amount of brown indicates what kind of winter the previous one was. To read more about the woolly bear caterpillar, check out this site.
What did our woolly bear say?
The kids determined he has 4.3 brown bands. So… if we are going to believe the folklore we’d better get that pantry stocked, the hay loft filled and fire wood split and prepare ourselves for a bad winter. But we’re choosing to think positively, and going to say he’s just a young one that hasn’t molted very many times due to our late spring.
Either way, we’re still rounding things up for winter, just in case. What do you think… harsh or mild winter?